Putting the future in communities' handsMobilizing threatened West African communities around a future they can fight for, through the power of law and community-driven development
ACA is a U.S. and Ghana-based non-profit organization that puts legal and organizing tools in the hands of threatened West African communities. We are building an ecosystem of lawyers and other experts who collaborate with communities to defend communities’ rights and pursue their own vision of development in the face of destructive resource extraction operations driven by foreign investment. We help mobilize communities to define for themselves a vision for the future that is appropriate for them. And we help them fight for and reach that future through community-driven development planning, financial support, and legal assistance.
In the two years since ACA’s founding, some of our proudest accomplishments have included:
- Assisting a Nigerian community to conduct a grass-roots-driven survey that catalogued impacts and gave them leverage to enter into negotiations with an oil company whose operations cause catastrophic flooding.
- Mobilizing a Ghanaian community to stand up to its traditional leaders and defy attempts at unjust eviction. Thanks to our assistance, the community has forced its chiefs to negotiate and agree to return most of the land.
- Uncovering previously unreported evidence that a mining company was deeply complicit in a 2012 massacre in Guinea
- Creating a collegial community of public interest lawyers across West Africa who assist each other with technical and moral support
- Guiding four Ghanaian communities to develop their own community development vision, which has now been incorporated into official government medium-term development plans – possibly a first for Ghana
- Placing Legal Fellows in two organizations – one in Sierra Leone, the other in Nigeria – who have boosted the legal capacity of important local organizations
- Coordinating a seven-country litigation strategy to highlight cases in which governments prioritize the interests of powerful economic actors before the rights of the people.
- Inspiring the formation of Côte d’Ivoire’s first university legal clinic, which will focus on communities and the extractive industries
Prior to founding ACA, Jonathan was Legal Advocacy Coordinator at EarthRights International, where he worked with civil society groups and communities on six continents to promote accountability for corporate complicity in human rights abuse and environmental devastation. He was a Finalist for the Public Justice Trial Lawyer of the Year Award in 2010, and has served as an adviser to the U.S. State Department on dispute resolution between communities and corporations. Jonathan graduated from Yale University with a combined B.A. and M.A. in Chinese, studied law at Harvard Law School, and has a degree in public policy from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Taiwan in 2002-03 and speaks Mandarin Chinese, French, and Spanish.
Eric is a qualified accountant with a Bachelors Degree in Commerce and MBA from the University of Cape Coast. He is also the Finance & Administrative Officer of the Center for Environmental Impact Analysis. For a decade, Eric managed the finances for the Central Region offices of Ghana’s principal government-run microfinance and small loans program. In addition to financial management, Eric is the author of a book entitled The Chronicle of Wisdom.
Nana Ama Osei Kyei-Baffour
Ghana Programs Director
Nana Ama is a Ghanaian who has been involved in many community projects sponsored by USAID and the World Bank as field officer and monitor since 2005. Previously, Nana Ama worked as Programs Manager for Gender and Environmental Monitoring Advocates (GEMA) where she was directly involved in helping communities affected by mining to identify alternative sources of livelihood. She has also worked as a Broadcast Journalist and News Editor at “Ahomka” FM, a community radio station in Komenda Edina EguafoAbrem Municipality, through which she became an active member of Journalists for Human Rights in Central Region. Nana Ama is a trained teacher who also taught English and Ghanaian Languages in a community senior high school for seven years. She holds a Masters in Human Resource Management (MBA) from the University of Cape Coast Business School and a Bachelors in Ghanaian Languages from the University of Education Winneba.
Nimako is a native of Donkro Nkwanta in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana. Prior to joining ACA, he was a high school teacher for many years. Nimako was trained as an accountant and comes from a family with a long history of struggle against community injustice.
Ama Naomi Pokuaa
Naomi is a native of Kyeredeso in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana. She is a farmer and community organizer who seeks to protect her community and family from the negative effects of mining.
Lalla Moulati Toure
Lalla is a Malian jurist with over a decade of experience leading legal advocacy struggles for human rights in her home country. Prior to joining ACA, she worked for the Association malien des Droits de l’Homme, International Federation for Human rights, and the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative. She founded a legal clinic in Gao to assist enslaved Malians, supported farming communities that were in danger of losing their land, and assisted workers in unfair dismissal cases. Lalla has been involved with many cases before the Malian courts, as well as the African Commission and African Court of Human and People’s Rights. She holds a Masters Degree in human rights from the University of Nantes as well as a legal degree from the University of Mali.
Board of Directors
Nnimmo Bassey(President) is a Nigerian architect, environmentalist activist, author and poet, who chaired Friends of the Earth International from 2008 through 2012 and was Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action for two decades. He was one of Time magazine’s Heroes of the Environment in 2009. In 2010, Nnimmo Bassey was named co-winner of the Right Livelihood Award, and in 2012 he was awarded the Rafto Prize. He serves on the Advisory Board and is Director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, an environmental think tank and advocacy organization.
Rachel Davis(Treasurer) is the Managing Director and Treasurer of the Shift Project. She is an Australian lawyer with extensive experience in business and human rights, having worked with business, in government and civil society settings. She served for five years as a legal advisor to Professor John Ruggie, the former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Business and Human Rights, as part of his core advisory team that helped develop the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Previously, Rachel served as a strategy and policy advisor to the UN Special Advisor on the “Responsibility to Protect” at the International Peace Institute in New York. She clerked at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague and at the High Court of Australia. Rachel has a Masters in Law from Harvard Law School and Bachelors degrees in Law and Politics from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, where she also lectured and published in law.
Ian Gary directs Oxfam America’s policy and advocacy work focused on promoting transparent and accountable financial flows – for example from oil and mining revenues, taxes and aid – to fight poverty. Previously he was Senior Policy Manager – Extractive Industries, at Oxfam America. He has authored Oxfam’s report, Ghana’s Big Test: Oil’s Challenge to Democratic Development (2009) and has co-authored many other reports and papers on the oil and gas sector in the developing world. He has been a leader in the fight to bring more transparency to oil and mining corporate payments to host governments and has been instrumental in the passage and implementation of US legislation requiring payment disclosure. Prior to joining Oxfam in 2005, Gary held positions with the Ford Foundation, Catholic Relief Services and other international development organizations in the US and Africa. He has conducted field work in more than 20 developing countries.
Michelle Harrison (Vice President) is a Staff Attorney at EarthRights International. She graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2012 where she received the Robert F. Kennedy ‘51 Public Service Fellowship to work with ERI for a year. She then remained at ERI as a Bertha Foundation Fellow. While at UVA, worked in Tanzania for the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and with the Innocence Project, providing post-conviction representation. Michelle holds a B.A. in Political Science and Environmental Science and a minor in French from Miami University. At ERI, Michelle has defended the First Amendment rights of activists against abusive discovery from Chevron, helped defend the Dodd-Frank extractive industry disclosure rules on behalf of Oxfam America, and worked on ERI’s U.S. litigation against Chiquita for human rights abuses and Union Carbide (Dow Chemical) for environmental abuses. She is admitted to practice law in Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Marco Simons is Americas Regional Program Director and General Counsel at EarthRights International. He oversees ERI’s use of legal strategies to work with communities around the world in protecting their human rights and their environment. With ERI, Marco has served as counsel on transnational corporate accountability cases including Doe v. Unocal, Wiwa v. Shell, Bowoto v. Chevron, and MaynasCarijano v. Occidental Petroleum, and submitted amicus briefs in numerous other cases. He has written or coauthored several articles and publications on corporate accountability for earth rights abuses as well as taught college and law school courses on human rights. Marco previously worked for ERI on the Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights after graduating from Yale Law School. Prior to returning to ERI, he clerked for the Honorable Dorothy Wright Nelson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and worked for the civil rights law firm Hadsell & Stormer, which was co-counsel on Doe v. Unocal and Bowoto v. Chevron. Marco holds an undergraduate degree in environmental science and, prior to law school, worked on developing educational materials on conservation biology. He is currently admitted to practice in California, Washington, D.C., and Washington State, as well as in the U.S. Supreme Court and several other federal courts.
Want to work with us?
We are building a regional professional community of lawyers.
We have an ecosystem of lawyers and other experts
who collaborate with communities to defend communities’ rights
and pursue their own vision of development